by Kevin Burton
My fifth grade teacher Mrs. Groves is the first one I can remember asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. She asked the whole class. We took turns peering into the future with ten-year-old eyes.
If memory serves I said I wanted to be a news moderator of some sort, like the guy who interviews politicians on the Sunday morning news shows like “Meet The Press.” Well that wasn’t spot on for what I have done, but it was reasonably close. I saw myself in work and in a world dealing with words. My words, other people’s words. I wanted to write them, speak them, group them.
Or maybe it started in kindergarten. Picture 30 or so American five-year-olds in a class on the Air Force base in Bermuda. Some kid announced to the teacher he had finished his assignment by saying, “I’m done.” I piped up with “you’re dumb?” The entire class bursts out laughing, not just a quick chuckle either. It was my first one-liner. Thus a word man was born.
My father wanted me to study computers in college. When I told him I wanted to study journalism, he asked, “How are you going to be a journalist, you’d have to talk to people?” That was a reasonable question to ask a very shy kid. “You’ll never get a byline,” he added, helpfully.
Here’s how polished I was, I didn’t even know what a byline was. I surely would have been indignant, had I known.
I learned about bylines though. I got my first one in college before I knew my way around campus. Of course I mailed my father a copy. I’ll show you. Another milestone.
I worked sort of hard in college and earned a degree in journalism. Nobody clued me in on just how difficult it would be for a legally blind reporter to get work on a newspaper, not that I would have listened. My thought was, “I only need one job, how hard can that be?” It’s possible I was really that stupid. It’s possible I recognized an unpleasant truth and kept it at arm’s length. I didn’t need the job that week, so as far as I was concerned, all was well.
Well it wasn’t easy. It took more than three years for me to break into fulltime journalism. But I was able to make that dream come true. I stopped pursuing bylines after about seven years to return to Ohio when my father got sick.
In many ways I never should have left journalism. It’s what I am trained for, it’s what I have a passion for. I’m not sorry for the detour though because the new path led me to my wife. She’s the period that ends my every sentence. She’s my home.
So what is this post anyway? Well for one, it’s a long-overdue public apology to that kid in Bermuda and my promise to him and to you, that I will use my powers for good from now on.
It’s also the beginning of my return to the world of words. Journalism is barely recognizable as the same thing I left in the 90s. I’m different too, now with more stories to tell. Where is this going? I’m probably not any better suited today to forecast my future than I was in fifth grade, but I hope you’ll take this journey with me. I hope to challenge and be challenged, to inform, to entertain.
My name is Kevin Burton. This is Page 7.